Sanford the Sage Grouse would be proud.
Jimmye Turner, who created Sanford along with dozens of other child-friendly cartoon characters, has been named to receive a national honor for his efforts to educate youths about wildfires.
The Walla Walla Valley man received a Silver Smokey Bear Award, an honor bestowed by the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention Committee, which includes the U.S. Forest Service, the National Association of State Foresters and The Advertising Council.
Presented this year for work done in 2015, the gold, silver and bronze awards “are the highest national honor one can receive for outstanding work and significant program impact in wildfire prevention,” according to the Forest Service.
In Turner’s case, the award recognized his talents to use original cartoon characters to educate children and adults about wildfire prevention, conservation and fire safety.
His teaching methods — such as drawing on site during presentations — captivate children, generate enthusiasm “and no doubt vastly (increased) comprehension and retention of the subject,” his supervisor, Fire Management Officer Brett Thomas, wrote in a letter nominating Turner.
“I wasn’t expecting to get any kind of award,” Turner said about the day in May when he came to work at the Forest Service’s Walla Walla District Office and was told he won the Silver Smokey.
A fire prevention specialist with the Walla Walla office since 1987, the 60-year-old Turner said he been drawing “since I was 3 or 4. I was a very shy child and instead of talking I would draw things and show them to my mom. I eventually learned to talk, but, yes, I was a problem child.”
Turner said he grew up in Umapine and has lived in the Walla Walla Valley area most of his life.
He said inspiration for his characters comes from “experiences, friends and co-workers and family.”
Turner said he has used his drawings to help illustrate his safety talks since he began his career and credited management that let him use that approach.
His interactions with children vary according to the age of the group, Turner said.
The very young children want to draw along with him and enjoy coloring illustrations he makes, while older students often question and want to explore what is being taught.
“Each group has its positives,” he said.
Turner said he has had some of his work published by regional magazines in past years and has hopes of becoming a syndicated comic artist.
He said he also wants to explore Internet publishing, such as posting his work on Facebook.
Gwen Beavans, national fire prevention coordinator for the Forest Service, said Turner’s award was one of two Silver Smokey honors presented this year for wildfire prevention service that is regional in scope over a minimum two-year period.
The second was presented to Forest Service Fire Specialist Kevin Conran.
Beavans said there were no gold awards, which are given for wildfire prevention service that is national in scope over a minimum two-year period.